Thu, Jul 31, 2014 ●
BathHarpswellTopshamBrunswickCumberlandNorth YarmouthFalmouthFreeportPortlandCape ElizabethScarboroughSouth PortlandChebeague IslandYarmouth

The Universal Notebook: LePage, party of 1

Opinion

The Universal Notebook: LePage, party of 1

Gov. Paul LePage has pretty much made mockery of his “People before Politics” slogan. His slogan should be “LePage before People.”

The way his administration has jerked the Department of Health and Human Services around is a perfect example of the governor’s insensitivity to the needs of Maine people.

One of the biggest brags of the LePage administration is that it paid Maine hospitals $490 million in overdue Medicaid bills. The fact that he put Mary Mayhew, the former head of the Maine Hospital Association, in charge of DHHS probably had nothing to do with that decision.

OK, so the hospitals got a nice little contribution to the bottom line, but in case you hadn’t noticed, Maine hospitals went on a building binge during the depths of the recession. If you want to know where the big bucks are in the local economy, take a look at the new Maine Med, Mercy, Intermed, and Maine General Health facilities all over the state. Bottom line: the hospitals obviously didn’t need the money that badly.

Then there is the little matter of the $28.3 million contract awarded to Consolidated Transportation Solutions of Ansonia, Conn., to provide rides for low income and disabled Mainers who receive MaineCare.

The rides program was working just fine with local providers, but as soon as CTS took over it was like trying to hail a cab in Manhattan: no one could get a ride. Worse, CTS failed to post the required performance bond, so it’s going to be hard for the state to recover its losses for this out-of-state run-around.

LePage’s latest waste of money has been to award right-wing darling Gary Alexander, who has a record of slashing health and human services in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, a nice, fat, no-bid contract to perform a study of Medicaid expansion and Maine’s welfare system.

LePage suffers from the hard-right prejudice that all government programs are a form of welfare, and welfare fraud is rampant. So the Alexander Group is simply being paid close to a million bucks of taxpayer money to report that Medicaid expansion would be bad for Maine and welfare fraud is rampant. The report will be utterly useless as a public policy document, but it will be great for LePage’s re-election campaign. He really ought to pay for it himself.

But LePage does not understand the separation of political and governmental authority. Ever since he was elected, we’ve been force fed a steady diet of “L’etat, c’est moi.”

“LePage, party of one!”

If the governor did comprehend the distinction been self-interest and public interest, he would know how entirely inappropriate and unethical it is for him to post Moving Maine Forward, his self-serving list of accomplishments, on the state website. In fact, the governor’s primary accomplishment in office has been to deny health insurance to 60,000 Maine citizens by refusing federal money to expand Medicaid.

The Alexander Group grope was still in the news when the LePage administration announced yet another attack on the poor people it is supposed to be serving.

The DHHS office on Marginal Way in Portland is perfectly located in the Bayside neighborhood, where the social service agencies are headquartered, and where many of the low income and homeless people who rely on DHHS services are concentrated.

But now the LePage administration has decided to move DHHS and the Department of Labor out by the airport on the edge of town. The fact that the contract went to conservative Republican and LePage contributor Eric Cianchette is probably just a coincidence. I’d be more convinced of that, however, if Cianchette’s bid had been the lowest (it wasn’t) and his location hadn’t been the most inconvenient.

Of course, the state is not alone when it comes to hiding out on the edge of town. The Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration are somewhere out there by the mall, too. It’s almost as though the government doesn’t want the people to find it.

Bottom line: DHHS provides vital services to low-income, disabled and elderly Maine people. The state employees who provide these health and human services are dedicated public servants who do their level bests to provide the services we ask for and pay for. It must upset them as much as it does me to have departments led by politicos whose primary mission seems to be to deny access to state services to as many people as possible.